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Solid Waste

The amount of waste generated from a cleanup can vary depending upon the clean-up methods that are selected. For example, decontaminating, as opposed to disposing of all contaminated material, can reduce the amount of waste generated.  The EPA Homeland Security Research Program (HSRP) evaluates decontamination technologies to guide decision makers in the selection of the best technologies for their situation.  HSRP evaluates the effectiveness of each technology as well as the volume of waste generated by the technology.

Waste segregation can help minimize waste by keeping contaminated material away from non-contaminated materials.  HSRP has incorporated its research on the persistence, fate, and transport of contaminants after release into recommendations regarding waste segregation to avoid contaminant migration and human exposure. 

Treatment of waste to remove or inactivate contamination can render the waste less toxic, which can lead to more options for waste transport and disposal.  Treatment can also be used to reduce the volume of waste. Volume reduction is especially needed for certain types of waste either due to transportation constraints or lack of disposal capacity.  Treatment may also be required before transportation of the waste to a recycling or disposal facility to further protect human health and the environment, or to meet a disposal facility's waste-acceptance criteria.  closed cell of an active landfillClosed cell of an active landfill

Staging/storing waste prior to treatment, transport, and/or disposal may be required because methods and technologies for treatment or logistics for off-site transport may not yet be available, or existing waste management facilities may not have the capacity or capability to manage the waste. The HSRP generates information on the best practices for staging waste and has developed a tool for identifying appropriate waste staging and storage sites.

Although there are few options for disposal of waste contaminated with pathogens, toxins, radiological and some chemical threats, some landfills could potentially take treated waste.  Different categories of landfills accept different types of waste.  For example, hazardous waste must be placed into a Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) Subtitle C landfill, municipal solid waste can be placed into a RCRA Subtitle D landfill, and low-level radioactive waste must go to a landfill permitted to accept such waste. The HSRP does research to support disposal of these wastes in landfills.

A unique  waste disposal challenge is posed by mass animal mortalities resulting from natural disasters, animal disease outbreaks, or chemical, biological and radiological incidents. HSRP has been supporting the US Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Inspection Service (USDA/APHIS) in evaluating existing methods and develping new methods to dispose of animal carcasses in a manner that is protective of public health and the environment.

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